Thursday, April 1, 2010

My Fling with Spring


Weather is a funny thing in the Pacific Northwest; I never know whether to expect sunshine in January or snow in March. So, while the vernal equinox has officially passed and new buds should now be in endless supply, spring fruits and veggies are not yet available. In fact, that mild (and at times quite warm) winter has transformed to a chilly spring. Amid those little April showers, I still feel like curling up in front of a warm fire and sipping some tea.

Well then, what does one do when confronted with a pie challenge themed “Spring”? Washington does not provide the early spring bounty so readily available in sunnier (and also heavily irrigated) California. And since I don’t want to turn my beloved Evergreen State into something it’s not, I embraced the transition of the seasons.

Two pies emerged from the abyss of desserts from which I pull my inspiration. At the farmer’s market a couple of weeks ago, I picked up the first of this season’s rhubarb! I still can hardly contain my excitement around this fruit I only first encountered a year ago. And although I obtained strawberry plants at the market, my pie had to make due without. The pear served as my local link to the fall and winter and melded nicely with the silky rhubarb.

Pear – Rhubarb Pie (vegan)

Crust:

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ cup ground brazil nuts

½ cup oat flour

¼ cup cold water (more if necessary)

½ cup oil (vegetable or nut)

1. Food process the oats. Add the nuts and run it until it reaches a fine meal.

2. Combine the oat/nut meal with the flour. Add the wet ingredients.

3. Mix all together with a wooden spoon until just combined and finish it off by hand.

4. Refrigerating isn’t really necessary, so just flour a surface and roll out to fit your pie pan (with a bit extra for the lattices).

Filling:

2 large pears

3 large stalks of rhubarb

½ - 1/3 cup sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

2 tbs corn starch (or tapioca starch)

1. Chop up the pears and rhubarb. Toss with sugar, starch, and cinnamon.

2. Fill the bottom crust. Use the leftover crust dough to lattice the pie.

3. Bake at 350F for 30-45 minutes, until the filling starts to bubble.

With my dessert set to go, my main course pie still eluded me. Oh, how good those fiddlehead ferns looked. Oh, if only the asparagus didn’t come from Mexico. Oh, if only I knew the dandelion greens growing in my lawn were edible! Instead, I snipped some of the chives that started to perk up as the weather warmed. Added to my fall/winter staples – onions and mushrooms – these little herbs make a nice quiche.

Caramelized Mushroom, Onion, and Chive Quiche (vegan, gluten-free)

Crust:

3 medium potatoes, grated

¼ cup garbanzo flour

1 tbs tapioca starch

1 tbs salt (or to taste)

1. Combine all the ingredients. Press into a greased pie pan. Bake for 15 minutes at 350F.

Filling:

12 oz firm tofu

½ large onion

½ cup sliced mushrooms

2 tbs chopped chives

1-2 cloves roasted garlic

½ tbs olive oil

2 tbs white wine

Salt to taste

Nutritional yeast (optional)

1. Heat olive oil in a skillet. Add onions and cook until starting to turn translucent.

2. Food process tofu until coarse. Add half the onions and give it another whiz.

3. Continue to sauté the rest of the onions and add the mushrooms. Douse them in the white wine and continue to cook until the mushrooms are soft and beginning to brown.

4. Combine all the ingredients. Taste, and make sure it is to your liking. Fill your potato crust. Pop it back into the 350F oven for 20-30 minutes until set.

And if there was any doubt that pies rule, check out this article on Jezebel: Pies vs. Cake!

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